In a very surprising move by the Los Angeles Lakers front-office (especially considering all of the rumours surrounding Phil Jackson possibly being brought on for a third time), the team has hired former New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns coach Mike D’Antoni to replace Mike Brown as Head Coach.
The decision was made late Sunday night, just one day after the Lakers met with Jackson to discuss his possible hire.
According to sources, Phil wanted to many regulations on his deal, such as greater pay ($10 million a year), more personal control and fewer appearances at road games as to not put any wear and tear on his surgically repaired knees.
D’Antoni has signed a three-year deal with the Lakers worth $12 million with an option for a fourth year, according to his agent Warren LeGarie. He is now awaiting doctors approval to travel from New York to Los Angeles after undergoing recent surgery on his knees.
An official press conference by the team will take place sometime this week.
Is Mike D’Antoni the right man for the job?
He’s certainly quite the accomplished coach with a solid resume to boot, but he’s no Phil Jackson.
It seemed like a sure thing to bank on Jackson getting hired, so I’m very much surprised to see D’Antoni as the new coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Over the course of his 10-year coaching career, Mike D’Antoni has a record of 388 wins and 339 losses, including 26-29 in the postseason. His most recent stint was with the New York Knicks where he resigned from his position after the team started the year 18-24.
His biggest success in the NBA came as coach of the Phoenix Suns, where he and current Lakers point guard Steve Nash helped lead the franchise to four straight 50+ win seasons.
D’Antoni will now be reunited with Nash in Los Angeles, with hopes of possibly bringing back the up-tempo “7 seconds or less” style offense that made the Phoenix Suns such a potent threat years ago. I would assume that Mike will give Nash even more control of the basketball, allowing the 2x MVP to run the offense himself with more pick-and-rolls and fast-paced transition scores.
Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard will also participate in this Reunion after playing under Mike on the 2008 USA Mens National Basketball “Redeem Team”. D’Antoni served as an assistant coach on Mike Krzyzewski’s staff with Team USA at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
As a child growing up in Italy, Bryant was actually quite the admirer of Mike D’Antoni as a basketball player, even choosing to wear the #8 as a homage to him.
The one big concern about this hire is Mike’s lack of emphasis on defense. The Lakers never had a problem scoring points under Brown, so continuing to make strides on the defensive end with an offensive-minded coach will be crucial to the team’s success.
Reuniting D’Antoni with some of his former players will make this transition go a lot smoother, but I’m sure the Reunion Lakers fans were dying to see was that of Phil Jackson and the team he won 5 NBA Championships with.
Jackson was the safe choice. Even if the team didn’t thrive under Phil, who would have blamed the Lakers for that hire?
Mike D’Antoni isn’t a bad coach. His offense is probably a better fit for this roster over Jacksons triangle, especially for Nash and Howard.
But again, he’s not Phil Jackson. That’s reason enough to be skeptical.
Christopher Walder is a sports blogger and lead editor for Sir Charles in Charge. You may follow him on Twitter @WalderSports